This was first written in the summer of 2017. It’s striking how little needed to be changed 12 months later…
It’s almost impossible to discuss Aaron Ramsey without it turning into a blazing argument. Why is that?
2. Fast forward
Fast forward to 2018 and the vitriolic tweets and heckles from the crowd remain, even in the face of everything Ramsey has achieved on the pitch since early 2013 when Arsene Wenger restored him to the centre of midfield to form a formidable partnership alongside Mikel Arteta. While his development trajectory since then has not remained linear, there have been no significant lows to temper the highest highs, even as he’s played in a team that hasn’t been set up to get the best out of him.
Off the pitch, Ramsey has never spoken ill of the club, manager, or fans.
He has never voiced a desire to leave. He’s a family man, who does extensive charity work with animals in his spare time. The only character trait anyone could take issue with is perhaps they may find him a bit beige. It’s mind-boggling that he can inspire such animosity.
Maybe it’s because some fans perceive Ramsey to be wasteful with the ball, which is a legitimate criticism for which there is tangible evidence. But even in an average game, he takes risks, commits to runs and puts himself in a position where he can make something happen. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, as the old adage goes. He’s not a reckless player, his risks are calculated, and in the biggest moments they have come off.
In a match where something comes off, people are happy to overlook all the attempts that don’t. Take the 2014 FA Cup final against Hull, for example. Nobody would care to remember Ramsey’s shots that didn’t go in, they’ll just savour the winner. Speak to Liverpool fans about Steven Gerrard’s performance against West Ham in the 2006 final. They’ll eulogise his last minute equaliser. None of them will mention his countless attempts that didn’t nestle in the back of the net.
Closer to home, Alexis Sanchez was an even more high risk, high reward player who could be frustrating with the regularity of which he lost the ball, despite his goal return. Unlike Ramsey, his body language on the pitch and comments to the media left a lot to be desired. Yet Sanchez’s conduct and output were rarely called into question at all, let alone scrutinised to the extent of Ramsey’s. This suggests that Arsenal fans’ issue with Ramsey is something deeper than just his character or tangible output on the pitch.
All things considered, in June 2017, Ramsey’s biggest detractors are not voicing such vehement views as a rational response to tangible evidence. They are not voicing such views to diminish him in an unnecessarily binary debate against a player who most likely won’t even be at the club next season.
They’re doing so as a preservation of ego.
During the 2016/17 season at the Emirates, had you looked away from the action for a second and heard a theatrical groan from another fan a couple of rows behind, you could almost always guess which player had been responsible for inspiring the performative outburst. Ramsey.
His biggest critics, both on social media and in the ground feel the need to validate their views as a form of confirmation bias, pontificating, forever competing for that one moment of self-aggrandising glory, where they hog the intellectual spotlight and hold dominion.
Some people have an innate desire to want to appear to be the most right. Even when they’re not. They’re too proud to admit they may have misjudged a player, or that circumstances have changed and the player has improved, so they double down on an outdated view that wasn’t fully correct in the first place.
This may not be the most accurate answer as to why Aaron Ramsey remains such a divisive figure amongst a fanbase he has given so much for and provided so much happiness to, but it’s the only one that makes sense when you consider the surreal depth of the vitriol hurled his way.